REVIEW: Are low cost airlines really worth it for long haul flights?

How much cheaper are low cost airlines when travelling long haul? Is it really worth the potential saving?

March 30, 2023
low cost

In the year post COVID we have seen the demand for travel rise like never before. There’s friends and family to catch up with, bucket lists to tick off and savings to be spent. However, the rise in demand has also resulted in an expected but significant rise in the price of airfares, accommodation, and experiences.

JOIN: YouTube Channel

GET: Accurate MH370 Information From Newsletter

SEE: GT’s Radar Slams Netflix MH370 Doco

Travellers are looking for ways to cut costs where they can and one of these is to consider a low-cost airline for their long-haul travel.  On the surface, the low-cost airline fare is attractive and affordable but what is the real cost of travelling long haul by the time you add food, water, bags and seats? Let’s not forget the comfort factor too – on a long-haul flight every extra inch of space makes a difference.

To answer this question, we are compiling a series of low cost vs full service airline comparisons on certain routes around the world. We will look at cost and comfort to determine if long haul low cost is really worth it.

Our first comparison looks at the total cost and on board experience flying low cost AirAsiaX or full service legacy carrier Malaysia Airlines. Our trip from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland will depart on August 28 and return on September 15th 2023.

Our flight with AirAsiaX came to 3854 MYR ($1305 AUD) with the inclusion of a meal and one small bottle of water on each flight leg, a standard window seat, 20kg of checked baggage and a 7kg carry on bag. Admittedly you would likely need to spend at least another 120 MYR ($40 AUD) to purchase extra drinks and snacks, but for this exercise we left that out. This airline offers no in flight entertainment or seat back power to recharge your device.

Our flight with Malaysia Airlines came in at 5174 MYR ($1753) which included meals, snacks, unlimited drinks, in flight entertainment, amenities, 20kg baggage and a 7kg carry on bag.

With a 1320 MYR ($448 AUD) difference in the fares the question of ‘which is better’ really comes down to where the traveller places value.

For the author (who is admittedly a tired mother to two babies), the thought of a direct flight with a little extra seat width, more seat recline, unlimited beverages, meals and snacks, a seat back screen for in-flight entertainment and a cosy blanket and pillow makes the extra cost worthwhile. 

However, when discussing this with my 18 year old niece, the value for her is placed on the saving she can make flying long haul, low cost. For her, she can easily go without the comforts and endure the longer flight time to have that extra money in her pocket to spend at the destination.


  1. How many times do we have to repeat this. Weather you are on a "low cost" airline or one of the so-called legacy carriers, it makes no difference whatsoever if you are flying in economy class. You will be treated like cattle on either of them, and no, they don't care. To them you are just another butt to fill the seat that pays their profits. I'm sick and tired of reading these glowing reviews exhorting how great such and such an airline and their service is. What a joke. That economy seat and the service just sucks no matter what the livery says. And spending twelve or thirteen hours in that seat should be classified as a crime.
  2. The difference in your preferences are that you need the comfort for yourself and your children, whereas your niece wants to save as much money on travel as she can. You're both right, because you're in different life stages. It's she marries and has children, her priorities may well change.
  3. What a good article and very good points are made. I fly quite a bit if not around Europe (Turkey, Spain, Greece, Netherlands etc) or back home to Australia from London, it does make me decide my choice, but totally understand your tired mother of two and your eighteen year old niece. I’m 59 now and still use the low budget flights when travelling to Europe as I can take my own entertainment onboard with me, and can live with picked seats etc, but when it’s the long haul flights there is no contention it’s comfort all the way, as there is not much worse than after 17 hour flight you can’t move for the next 24hrs. One other point about some budget airlines, they are not all thee cracked up to be, as if you are on a tight budget, you are treated a bit like cattle, and that’s a disgrace. Great article and always a good read. Thanks Paul 🇦🇺
  4. @kiwi It certainly feels like it on some flights we agree. The purpose of this article was to highlight the options available to the passenger on this route and the associated costs with each option. Hopefully no matter what choice a passenger makes they will have a pleasant experience on board.
  5. @GreggB57 Exactly! How lucky are we that we get choices so that most have the opportunity to travel and explore the world.
  6. @Harsten Thankyou for your kind feedback we are glad you enjoyed it. Definitely agree with you on low cost airlines around Europe - an integral part of living and travelling in Europe/UK. Keep an eye out for our comparison next week, Sydney to Honolulu with Jetstar and Qantas.
  7. You're not comparing like with like! Forget everything else: if I were flying KUL- AKL, I'd pay all the extra money just to avoid the extra 2½ hours journey time attributable to SYD.
  8. I rather pay that little extra to get the following:- extra comfort - all inclusive - peace of mind (with no or as little as possible delays or cancellations) and airline taking care of your needs should there be a delay or flight cancellation.
  9. I've flown on a lot of top tier airlines and plenty of budget airlines. Flown a couple of the longest commercial flights available (Singapore to San Francisco 2 months ago) as an example. To me there is one factor in particular that makes all the difference in the world, and that is thick enough padding on the seat.But to contribute to this topic I have always been reimbursed for cancelled flights promptly, and have not had any real issues with any airline until now. I booked tickets October 24, 2022 from Jakarta to Cebu Philippines with a connection in Kuala Lumpur through Air Asia. The flight was scheduled for December 21st when a couple weeks after making all my bookings and plans Air Asia cancelled service from KL to Cebu. That's fine totally understand an airline ending a route if it doesn't get enough bookings. But this is where my complaint begins. It is impossible to speak with anyone on the phone, you only have the option to navigate their automated customer service chat room. After at least an hour of dealing with bots I was put into a queue to speak with a live representative. After an hour in the queue I was disconnected from their server (this happened twice). After finally getting a human we chatted about a refund and he said he would get that started...... then disconnected again. The next day after jumping through all the hoops again I finally get a case number and a refund process started. After several weeks and no refund I go into the chat to see what the holdup is. I was then told a refund will take 16-20 weeks to get processed. I am now at 20 weeks +2 days and still no refund for a flight that they cancelled.I have flown Air Asia before and was satisfied with the flight and service. But if you ever expect to get your money back from a flight they cancel you might as well leave it in the will for future family members. This is the first airline I will not do business with unless I have no other option.